The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Editorials

February 15, 2011

Editorial: Sadly, the time to shutter the Wigwam has come

The Wigwam is a venerable building. Seating about 9,000 people, it’s the world’s second-largest high school basketball gym. It’s the home of not only great basketball games but famous speeches and other unforgettable events.

You walk into the building and it’s like walking into no other place in the world, combining the spirit of a historic gym with the eye-popping size of a cavernous arena.

In short, the Wigwam is an important part of our community’s history.

But the building is expensive to maintain, and the games it hosts are no longer the center of Anderson’s attention. Crowds never approach capacity, and there are almost always more empty seats than full ones.

Alas, the time has come for the building to be shuttered. Anderson Community Schools is facing a $2.4 million budget deficit this year. Dozens of teaching positions have already been cut, and several school buildings have been closed. Yet ACS officials must find a way to cut deeper.

In 2008, utilities at the Wigwam cost almost $350,000. That outlay could be diminished considerably by moving the programs — adult education, ROTC, preschool and alternative school — currently at the Wigwam complex to other, smaller, more efficient buildings. Then, prospectively, the money saved could be used to avoid making further cuts in educational programming.

At the same ACS board meeting this month where Superintendent Felix Chow recommended closing the Wigwam and offering it for sale, he also proposed the elimination of 82 paid positions, including 65 teachers. Both recommendations await board approval, which could come in March.

While it’s sad to see the Anderson Indians basketball team moved from its historic home, the Wigwam’s spaciousness has become an indefensible luxury in an era of austerity. It’s simply become too difficult to justify keeping the structure active when teachers and programs that benefit students are called to the chopping block.

But this step shouldn’t be the end of the Wigwam. If it is mothballed responsibly, the structure stands at the ready for potential historical or economic development uses.

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